Perils Of Washing Raw Denim Too Early

LVC 1967 505-0217 - Washed Too Soon

LVC 1967 505-0217 - Washed Too Soon

When it comes to raw denim, arguably the biggest cardinal sin is washing them too soon. For those new to or unfamiliar with raw denim, the goal is to achieve as sharp fade creases and contrasts as possible, thereby leaving you with denim that is suited to just you.  To do so, however, one should refrain from washing for at least six months.   There are loads of amazing success stories on the web, including yours truly’s Fade Friday, but what if you were to ignore this “6 month” rule-of-thumb and treat your raw denim as pre-washed jeans?

The short answer is simple – you’d essentially have a “fade failure” on your hands and have wasted your money.  Longer answer – your denim starts off as rigid, crisp, and pure and after enough wear will look as if it was made by you, for you.  Washing the garment prior to giving enough “break-in” time is detrimental.  Your denim will lose a severe amount of indigo and have no, bland, or very little personalized contrasts.  Also, you will have effectively doubled or tripled the amount of time needed to get that “second skin” look.

Case in point – a pair of LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing) 1967 505-0217 I’ve had for around 3 years now.  After purchasing for around $220.00, I made the grave mistake of washing the denim 2-3 weeks later then about every few weeks after that.  Though I wouldn’t say they look horrible (I still wear them), I would admit they pale in comparison to similar denim that have been worn for 2-3 years.  I’m kicking myself as well given the origins of the denim!

Details

  • Name: LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing) 1967 505-0217
  • Weight: 14.5 Oz
  • Denim: 100% Cotton, Sanforized Kaihara Japanese Denim
  • Fit: Slim
  • Price: $220.00
  • Length of Wear: 2-3 Years
  • Number of Washes: 30-40 Washes

Photos – BEFORE (source: caliroots.blogspot.com)

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

Photos – AFTER (notice: poor honeycomb & whisker fades)

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

LVC 1967 505-0217 Raw Denim

Have you had similar experiences with raw denim washed too soon?  Let us know via the comments below!

Stay Raw!

-Chad
tw: @rawrdenim | fb: Rawr Denim | subscription: Rawr Denim

Chad

A long-time denim enthusiast, Chad has spent the last year between a pair of Allevol and Naked & Famous jeans. In addition to contributing to RawrDenim.com, he also keeps busy with Sporting Charts.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

  • http://twitter.com/Anthony_Hale Anthony Hale

    I don’t think that it’s a terrible thing to wash raw denim soon/frequently. I’ve seen pairs that get washed early and frequently that end up having an awesome vintage fade to them. I don’t think those LVCs look bad, and after some more hard wear they would develop a great vintage fade. It’s not the high contrasts you would get with waiting, but it’s all personal preference.

    • http://twitter.com/RawrDenim Rawr Denim

      @twitter-48236780:disqus – good point, it does boil down to personal preference.  In the case above, I was kicking myself since I was going for those high contrast fades.  Thanks for the comment!

    • Matthew Bryan

      I agree; they look fine. I’ve seen/owned plenty of vintage 60s to early-70s 505s (and a few pre-owned LVC 505s) that had similar fading. People didn’t care in the olden days (and many still don’t); they washed their denim workwear regularly, so perhaps that’s why so many vintage pairs have this kind of fading. They look pretty cool, and will still develop more goodness with future wear. Like Anthony pointed out, the contrast is just less apparent due to the washing. It also comes down to personal taste I guess. Some folks don’t like the high contrast fades, and others do. Both can be cool in their own right.

  • Wesley

    Q: I’m looking into buying a pair of Momotaro Vintage Label denim. I really have to hem it, it’s 7″ too long and otherwise would be kind of unwearable for me. Since it’s unsanforized, I assume I have to soak it before I’m going to hem it. Is that not considered washing? ….What should I do?

    • Thebrik

      soaking isn’t washing to be considered a wash some sort of cleaning ingredient has to be added to the water. you absolutely should soak them before hemming if you hem then soak they wont fit at the same spot its probably a good idea to soak in them as well 

      • whodat

        So you can soak as much as you want?  Do cold soaks versus hot soaks make a difference?

        • http://twitter.com/djhakujin Sean Slater

          Soaking for anything more than 2 hours is redundant. Myself, as well as most people I know typically give their new jeans a hot soak in order to shrink them down as much as possible. A cold soak will do the same thing, but shrinks them a lot less. Cold soaks are usually used after the first wash.

           When you get new unsanforized jeans, they need to be shrunk down to get the right fit. If you start wearing the jeans without “getting the shrink out” first, they will fit differently after your first wash, and could potentially lead to a bad fit or unexpected fades. The initial soak also makes the jeans more comfortable and softer since it gets rid of the starch used by the manufacturer.

          • http://twitter.com/daysofspeed daysofspeed

            I warm soak a raw LVC whilst wearing them (that’s why I didn’t say hot”!). They come in perfect and I’ve got got leg shrinkage without the waist coming too small. I tend to buy same size in a shrink to fit rather than size up as I don’t dig anti-fit that much (preferring a 60’s shape to a 1950’s one).

            I’ll do a few stretches in them wet (but beware knee sag) and then sit in them until they dry a bit before hanging in the shade outside if possible. Then the air until they look how I want or are hanging off me before a warm soak with some slight agitation (I tend to dip, lift and drip, repeat – i.e. no rough stuff and deffo no appliances just a bath tub). 

        • http://twitter.com/RawrDenim Rawr Denim

          @6ea81cd99c8ede4cb155822716e79fb9:disqus  – @dec48a2fee4ec7de0f6ebceb8c89cc5b:disqus & @twitter-110029735:disqus are right on – take those for a soak (see  – http://dev.rawrdenim.com/2011/03/soaking-raw-denim-the-critical-preliminary-step/ for a how-to). @b478154bf9f2048d6f9c50c633185ef4:disqus – Sean Slater is right again and we would add that the hotter the water, the greater the indigo loss.

          • Abc

            that is not true. indigo, a naturally occuring substance, is non-water soluble. i.e. hotter water does not give you more indigo loss. also, your article is misinformation for many others who are new to raw denim. it is one of the reasons why you hear of people do not wash their jeans for six months. absolutely ridiculous.

          • http://twitter.com/RawrDenim Rawr Denim

            @3f009d72559f51e7e454b16e5d0687a1:disqus Thanks for the comments & candid feedback – you are correct in that indigo is water insoluble. 
            However, from previous experience we have found hotter water has led to greater indigo loss. There may be another explanation for this such as loss of starch or heavier abrasion (if laundry washed).  Any thoughts as to why most raw denim brands recommend not washing in hot water then?

            Regardless, we’ll set out to research further. Thanks again.

    • http://twitter.com/djhakujin Sean Slater

      Definitely give your Momotaros a soak! Soaking will cause the jeans to shrink up. Then you wear them while they’re still damp (not dripping wet, just damp) and stretch them to fit your waist and thighs, etc.

      As far as indigo loss is concerned, the only real indigo you will lose is the dried, powdered indigo leftover from the dyeing process. Until you’ve worn the jeans for a little while, you won’t start to lose enough indigo to affect your fades.

      • punkofpark

        I have a pair of APC’s that I machine washed within the first 3 weeks. Do you think I will get sharp fades still or are they ruined?

        • Anonymous

          I’d suggest you try to wear them still. It’s not as though they lost all of their indigo. They might take longer to exhibit some proper fades than if you hadn’t washed them.

          After 3 months, you might run into some problems, but but after only 3 weeks I’d say you’re alright. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/skuirtgun Faizal Reza

    For the above example Name: LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing) 1967 505-0217Weight: 14.5 OzDenim: 100% Cotton, Sanforized Kaihara Japanese Denim
    do I need to soak them first before wearing? Or does the 1st soak rule applies only for Unsanforized jeans?

    Thanks

    • http://twitter.com/djhakujin Sean Slater

      Sanforized denim will still shrink, but only a little bit. About half-an-inch on average. You can give your sanforized jeans a pre-soak if you’d like, but they don’t need it nearly as much as unsanforized jeans do.

  • http://twitter.com/daysofspeed daysofspeed

    Whilst on the wider point I agree I have some 66 LVC that I wish I’d washed sooner. They look more beaten than I’d like – I wanted “lived in” but more consistency than the contrast I have.

    In addition unwashed for sometime is the fast route to crotch-blow in my experience. I always cold dip starch off now just to give me a chance with the avoidance of rips/holes.

  • Noemail

    Whatever dude, I wear LVC when I’m working hard. How else to get an authentic fade than to treat them like the original? They get dirty pretty fast, so I scrub them on a washboard and put them on a line to dry in the sun. Doing this for 1 year makes them look like you hit the thrift store lottery.

  • Cheapmuthafukr

    http://img694.imageshack.us/img694/4055/img6542u.jpg
    http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/3715/img6543vt.jpg

    these are evisu no1 that i have had since 09, and washed around once a month.  they seem to fade alright to me… and the contrast is fine.

    • http://twitter.com/RawrDenim Rawr Denim

      @f688e4a68acc80426a9fcd0b12d9077e:disqus Thanks for the share.  Agreed, they look great.  How often did you wear?  How long did you wait before the first wash too?

      • Cheapmuthafukr

        i wear em a few times a week… no set rotation or anything.  i soaked them new to shrink them and im pretty sure i washed them in the first month i had em.  honestly, i dont keep track of shit like that, i just wear em and wash em when they either smell or are visibly dirty.

  • 7 Jeans

    What happened to the leather patch? Why is it torn at the top?

    • http://www.rawrdenim.com Rawr Denim

      The leather patch was abraded by a specific belt worn with these denim

  • Ben

    Similar problem with my APCs. Had them for 4 weeks was just getting some whisker/honeycombs and bam my drunk wife smears mustard on them from pocket to knee. I tried to soak and nothing and in the heat of the moment i through them in the wash and got the mustard out but now i’m worried I won’t get the contrast I wanted. Any advice at all would be AWESOME.

  • Woody

    Hi there! I’ve just bought a pair of Levis STF jeans, and was wondering whether you should wear the jeans for some time before the initial soak, or is it best to soak them when you buy them and wear them until dry and THEN wash every 6 months or so (or not at all)? I was a bit confused from all of the other posts. Also, is it best to use cold/warm/hot water for the initial soak, as I want maximum fading, but as a more gradual transition? Thanks in advance!

    • http://www.rawrdenim.com Rawr Denim

      Hey @18914b797bb39f3563b044a32ac9bd35:disqus – in terms of soaking v.s. washing your Levi’s STF, we actually have a post in the works and will go into more detail then.

      Unless you are using scolding, piping hot water, the temperature will not have a big impact. However, go with cold-warm water to be safe.

      For more information on when to wash your denim, see: http://www.rawrdenim.com/2012/01/when-should-i-wash-my-jeans-a-rough-guide/

  • swiss-jeansfreak

    Since I never wash my raw denim stuff there is no possibility of too early washings.
    Of course, in my childhood and when I was young, my mother washed my clothes a lot, but this was a long time ago.

    But if worn the hard way for a long time, there is still a good fading potential left in those levis pants mentioned above.

  • shad0w

    Is there anyway to preserve the darkness rather than end up with a pair that look like I mugged a homeless guy? I have 2 pair, I want 1 dark for dress up and I was going to let the others be more of my fade pair.

    • http://www.rawrdenim.com Rawr Denim

      Your best bet would be to not wear or be too active in them.

  • gmcv

    IMHO your jeans looks great. Sure it would have been nice to break them like you would do with most raw denim but those jeans came out looking nice. It’s good to have a different wear with different jeans. Otherwise they began to look the same in a way.

  • Beach Raven

    I started wearing Levis back in the 60s and still wear them daily. There are only 3 rules: 1) never buy pre-washed Jeans 2) never touch them with an iron 3) they must be Levis. Other then that the cool thing is, you don’t have to think about them. Wash them, don’t wast them, wear them long or short, tight or loose, new or old it’s all cool..

  • Adrian

    Should I get my APC petite standard hemmed I’m 5’10” and they’re long i normaly have my jeans 30 in length. I’ve had my jeans 5 months now and no soak or wash yet. Will getting raw denim hem mess up the jeans or should i wait til i wash them before i get them hem.

  • Douglas Mak

    Good thing I did some research first before washing. My jeans are only 1+ month in.

  • Mark Coulthard

    All this tells me is washing your jeans regularly stops them from breaking apart and developing monstrous holes that need to be patched after a year and a half of wear, personally I think they look alright and will get better with age and last longer without having to repair

  • PS

    I’m new to the world of selvedge, but I think these look pretty good. I thought the point of selvedge was quality, and not just trying to make your jeans look like the pre-distressed factory ones.

  • Kristo Jorgenson

    I got a bunch of clay on my jeans from JapanBlue, thinking it would come off like dirt does with a brush… somehow it got more into the denim than I thought and the marks aren’t coming off. I know they will with water, but this would also affect my color. What should I do?

    Is soaking in water with light scrubbing the same as a full blown machine wash?

  • Stabilized

    I have a pair of LVC 1967 505s as well and I just did a warm soak for the first time since buying (back in 2010). They have been on rotation and I have worn them countless times, but I have not found them to fade well at all. I don’t think your wash early in the life of these were the only factor in the bad fades, might be a symptom of the jeans themselves.